OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

November 1, 1990

Mr. Don B. Howard
Division Director
C-K Associates, Inc.
Engineering and Environmental Consultants
11200 Industriplex Boulevard, Suite 150
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70809

Dear Mr. Howard:

This is in response to your letter of August 16, regarding the applicability of Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) standard 29 CFR 1910.1450, Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories. You asked whether the list of thirteen laboratories you provided would be exempt from the standard. We apologize for the delay in response.

You state in your letter that ten of your laboratories have one or more of the following characteristics: use specific chemicals with no variability from month to month; use specific chemical procedures which are repetitive and have no variability; the procedures in the laboratory are an integral part of the production process by assuring the reliability of the product or process; laboratory does not use chemicals and procedures are physical in nature; or the laboratory procedures are a simulation of the production process.

The applicability of OSHA's laboratory standard, Occupational Exposures to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories, is controlled by paragraph (a)(1) of that standard which references two definitions also included in the standard. Paragraph (a)(1) states that the standard shall apply to all employers engaged in the "laboratory use of hazardous chemicals". Paragraph (b) of the standard defines the "laboratory use of hazardous chemicals" to include the handling or use of hazardous chemicals where all of the following conditions are met. The conditions that must be met include that multiple chemical procedures or chemicals are used; the procedures involved are not part of a production process, not in any way simulate a production process, and the chemical manipulations are carried out on a "laboratory scale". The definition of "laboratory scale" specifically excludes those workplaces whose function it is to produce commercial quantities of materials.

By the terms of the standard all of the conditions in the definition of "laboratory use" must be met in order for a workplace to be covered by the standard. To the extent that any of the ten laboratories to which you refer are an integral part of the production process, they would not qualify for coverage under the standard. The repetitive nature of the laboratory operation or the lack of variability of the chemicals used cited in your letter are not part of the definition of laboratory use or laboratory scale. These factors were merely discussed in the preamble to the regulation as characteristics frequently found in laboratories and one of the many elements that influenced the Agency's decision to have a separate standard on laboratories.

The preamble to the final rule indicates that "most quality control laboratories are not expected to meet the qualification for coverage under the Laboratory Standard" (55 FR at 3312) because they are typically adjuncts of production operations. However, this is a question of fact, and each particular quality control laboratory must be evaluated within the context of your industrial operation. Clearly there may be some circumstances where a laboratory, even though it may be called a quality control laboratory, meets all of the elements included in the definitions of "laboratory use" and "laboratory scale" and would therefore be considered to be within the scope of the laboratory standard.

As to the three remaining laboratories which you reference in your letter, it is difficult to make a definitive coverage determination on the facts given. It appears that these labs are located within the manufacturing facility but may not be part of the production process. At least one of these three laboratories as part of its activities performs research which does not necessarily proceed to the manufacturing process. Laboratories which perform some research may well be covered by the laboratory standard if the other qualifying conditions are met as well. To the extent that the work comes within the scope of the definition of laboratory scale and meets the other elements of laboratory use these laboratories may be covered by the laboratory standard.

The failure of a facility to fit within the scope and application section of the laboratory standard merely shifts the employer's obligation to protect employees working within the facility from compliance with the laboratory standard to compliance with the appropriate general industry standards. Moreover it should be noted that the general duty clause, section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, continues to be applicable to all employers and requires each employer to provide employees a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that may cause death or serious physical harm to employees.

We hope we have adequately addressed your concerns. If we can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us again .


Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs

August 16, 1990

Occupational Safety and Health Administration
Compliance Office
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room 3469
Washington, D.C. 20210
Attn: Ms. Patricia Clark, Director

Ref: Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories 29 CFR Part 1910.1450 C-K Associates' Project No. 40-119-2

Dear Ms. Clark:

We are writing to you on behalf of Paxon Polymer Company, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to obtain your opinion with respect to the applicability of their laboratories to the referenced rule. There are thirteen laboratories at Paxon Polymer Company, each providing a specific service for the production process. Ten of these laboratories could be described by one or more of the following regulatory criteria which would result in their exemption from 29 CFR 910.1450, based on our interpretation.





  • The use of specific chemicals in the laboratory with no variability from month to month.
  • Specific chemical procedures which are repetitive and have no variability.
  • Procedures in the laboratory are an integral part of the production process by assuring reliability of a product or process.
  • No chemicals are used in the laboratory because the procedures are physical in nature.
  • Laboratory procedures are a simulation of the production process.

The ten laboratories which should be exempt from this rule based on the above criteria are as follows:

  • Chromatography Laboratory Instrument Laboratory
  • Gel Permeation Laboratory
  • Physical Testing Laboratory
  • Sample Preparation Laboratory
  • ASTM Laboratory
  • Reactor Laboratory
  • X-Ray Fluorescence Laboratory
  • Quality Control Laboratory
  • Water Quality Control Laboratory

The three remaining laboratories in question at Paxon Polymer Company are:

  • Rotomolding Laboratory
  • Formulation Laboratory
  • Catalyst Preparation Laboratory

The purposes for these three remaining laboratories are to test various pigments, additives, and catalysts prior to their use in the production process. However, if one of these fails to meet specific criteria, it will not be used in the production process. Therefore, in our opinion, the procedures used in these three laboratories are an integral part of the production process and should also be exempt from this rule.

Accordingly, on behalf of Paxon Polymer Company, we respectfully request your concurrence with our interpretation that the thirteen laboratories are exempt by regulation or your written opinion to the contrary. We sincerely appreciate your assistance and should you have any questions, please contact Linda Grande, Ph.D. or myself at (504) 291-3138.

Very truly yours,
C-K Associates, Inc.

Don B. Howard
Divison Director